Movie Review: House of 1000 Corpses
By Allison Benedikt, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
The title does not do this movie justice. Imagine a house filled with 1,000 corpses. Unsettling, to be sure. But "House of 1000 Corpses," the film debut of writer-director Rob Zombie (yes, the guy from White Zombie), is worse. Worse than anything your fertile mind can come up with, I hope.
Controversial from the start, with Zombie having a tough time finding any studio willing to take on this monstrosity, and the MPAA willing to rate it R rather than the NC-17 it deserves, "Corpses" is as empty as it is gruesome.
For such an extreme film, its premise is rather conventional. Take four kids driving cross-country to do research for a book on wacky roadside attractions (such as Captain Spaulding's Museum of Monsters and Madness, where taking the Murder Ride will get you a bag of fried chicken), add rain and the fact that it's Halloween eve, and you have a typical horror flick.
In order for thrash-rocker Zombie to spice things up, he opted for absurdly over-the-top gore and MTV-style editing rather than interesting characters, dialogue, humor or plot twists.
The traveling kids pick up a hitchhiker (who happens to be a dead ringer for singer Shakira), then get a flat tire. The hitchhiker, Baby (Sheri Moon), takes the kids back to her house to get her brother's tow truck. And there the madness unfolds.
Baby's family is crazy, but these folks left me pining for chainsaws and hockey masks. Baby and her brother Otis tear into one of the kids, Bill (Rainn Wilson, the odd funeral home apprentice from "Six Feet Under"), mutilating him to such extremes that in the end they turn him inexplicably into a fish-boy while dancing to "Brick House." I kid you not.
It turns out Baby's family has tortured, like, a thousand (how did you guess?) unsuspecting innocents, cutting them to pieces, burying them alive or dead or somewhere in between. And for about 45 minutes, this is all we watch. The plot doesn't move forward. No one is rescued. It's just one bloody scene after another.
And through it all is Zombie's unsteady hand, constantly cutting, first to black and white, then splicing to overexposed X-ray-like footage, then back to black and white, but this time with a split screen, then color. If the gore isn't enough to make you feel faint, the dizzying way this movie is put together should do the trick.
"House of 1000 Corpses"
Directed and written by Robert Zombie; produced by Andy Gould; Edited by Kathryn Himoff, Robert K. Lambert, Sean Lambert; photographed by Tom Richmond, Alex Poppas; designed by Gregg Gibbs. A Lions Gate Film Release; now showing. Running time: 1:28. MPAA rating: R (strong sadistic violence/gore, sexuality and language).
Captain Spaulding Sid Haig
Otis Billy Moseley
Baby Sheri Moon
Jerry Chris Hardwick
Bill Rainn Wilson